There are these two young fish swimming along when they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them a says, Morning boys. How’s the water? And the two young fish swim on for a bit and eventually one of them looks to the other and goes, What the hell is water?
David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College back in 2005 is one of those speeches that deserves revisiting every once in a while. I often show the video made from edited parts of it to my classes. Above is the opening. Wallace follows by stating that the “most obvious important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” The gist of the speech is that we have choices. And if we choose to acknowledge that we have choices, then maybe we can see the world through many lenses, not just through our default “me” setting.
Empathy may be the most underrated aptitude of the modern era. Being able to view reality from another person’s perspective is an incredibly powerful tool. It opens the door to real conversations that can lead to a greater understanding of the world in which we live. We just have to understand that no matter how substantiated our view may be, another may exist that’s just as valid.
As Wallace states later in his speech, the “real value of education has almost nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness.”